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Chesapeake Bay News

Dec
10
2010

What do Bay critters do during the winter?

Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.

This week’s question came from Sarah, who asked, “What do all the Bay critters do during the winter? Do they hibernate?”

Winter habits of Chesapeake Bay critters vary by species because each species tolerates the temperature changes of winter differently. Most critters don't actually "hibernate" but instead migrate to a different place.

Blue crabs have less of a tolerance for colder water temperatures in the winter, so they have to relocate. Blue crabs retreat to deeper waters and spend the winter months burrowed into muddy or sandy bottoms. This is not technically considered hibernation, but rather a dormant state.

Striped bass from the Chesapeake tend to head south to the warmer waters of the Virginia and North Carolina capes during the winter. Some do stay in the Bay throughout the winter.

Other Bay critters don't mind the cold. Oysters, for example, are actually in their best condition in the winter and early spring, or the “R” months of September through April.

While it may seem like all of the Bay's critters have left until spring, don’t forget about the many species that make yearly winter migrations to the Chesapeake. Each year, about one million swans, geese and ducks make the Chesapeake Bay their winter homes until it is time to head back north in the spring. And even more make rest stops in the Bay watershed before heading further south to even warmer climates. 

So even when the weather is cold, take some time to bundle up and see if you can spot any of these migratory waterfowl species during their winter stay along the Bay!

Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events.


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